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About this book

This book presents a detailed, independent review of essentially all the technical aspects of “in situ resource utilization” (ISRU), offering the first in-depth discussion of the issues of crew size, ascent from Mars, and ISRU processes. It also provides data on lunar ISRU not previously available to the public.

This new edition provides a short synopsis of the Mars mission, and discusses various topics, including solid oxide electrolysis, which promises to be an important part of the ISRU picture. In addition, it explores ancillary needs for Mars ISRU and how to obtain water on Mars.

It is the go-to resource for professionals involved in planning space missions or working on ISRU processes, as well as students planning careers in space technology.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Mars ISRU

Portree (2001) wrote a superb history of mission planning for sending humans to Mars.

Donald Rapp

Chapter 2. Lunar ISRU

NASA’s Exploration Systems Architecture Study Final Report was on lunar mission design was published by NASA in 2005. ( The lunar mission design section of this report ( presented a historical review of lunar mission concepts, and used that as a basis for outlining the “ESAS” plan for a return of humans to the Moon.

Donald Rapp

Chapter 3. Value of ISRU

Cutright and Ambrose (2014) wrote a generic report on economic benefits of ISRU but I could not find much in that report that seemed useful for our purposes here.

Donald Rapp

Chapter 4. Refueling Spacecraft in LEO Using Propellants Derived from the Moon or Asteroids

If Mars-bound vehicles could be fueled in LEO with H2 and O2 from the Moon, the required mass of Mars-bound vehicles to be delivered from Earth to LEO would be reduced to about 40% of the required mass if propellants were brought up from Earth. For example, a Mars-bound vehicle that weighs say, 250 metric tons in LEO when propellants are brought from Earth, if fueled by hydrogen and oxygen from the Moon would have a mass of only about 100 metric tons. This would have a huge impact on the feasibility of launching large Mars-bound vehicles.

Donald Rapp

Chapter 5. Recent NASA Plans

Dating back to the 1990s, NASA funding for ISRU technology was minimal, consisting of at most, one or possibly two $100 K chunks per year—in a good year. In those days, I administered some of that money from JPL, supporting initial low-level work on solid oxide electrolysis of CO2 at the University of Arizona and the Allied Signal Corporation, system analysis and sorption compressors at Lockheed-Martin Astronautics (LMA), and studies of the chemistry of methane at JPL.

Donald Rapp

Chapter 6. Summary and Conclusions

Since the earliest expeditions of humans into space, visionaries have contemplated the possibility that extraterrestrial resources could be developed and civilization could eventually move into space.

Donald Rapp


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